This was a difficult week for many women in America. Painful memories have been awakened in many of us. Memories of junior high, high school, or college that we have worked hard to deal with through counseling, self-help books, faith, and a positive outlook on our present lives. I write this post not as a political commentary, but to hopefully reach out to other women, and men who are hurting and finding it difficult to navigate each day.
I won’t go too much into my experience. I will say I was very young and in my first year of junior high. Too young to really understand what was happening. I was at an age when all of us want to be liked, especially by the ‘popular kids’. Boys go through this, but it is even more difficult on girls. My family moved around a lot. I often changed schools every year, sometimes in the middle of a year. Needless to say, that didn’t make me one of the popular kids, especially since many of the towns we moved to were small towns where everyone knew each other. I already had a mixed up view of what relationships were supposed to be like. When one of the popular boys started to pay attention to me, my insecurities and desire to be accepted led me to believe that he really liked me. I didn’t want IT to happen. I didn’t even know what “it” was. I was even naive enough to think that we were now boyfriend/girlfriend. I found out I was wrong when I returned to school on Monday to notice kids looking at me and whispering. It wasn’t long before I heard the word, “slut” murmured in the hallways as I walked past. I never told my parents what happened. I was afraid. I thought it was all my fault. My dad had a short temper and I didn’t want to trigger that.
Long story short, that word “slut” stuck with me. I started to believe that’s what I really was. It led me down a dark path through my early teenage years. It got to be too much and I tried to end my life at 14. My parents responded by taking me to counseling at a local church. Ironically, the kids who were calling me names and making my life hell were all “good Christian kids” and members of the church. I got my first real look at the ugly face of hypocrisy. Something did change that day though. My pain, depression, despair…it all turned to anger.
I spent the rest of my teenage years, and my early adult life expressing my frustrations and depression through anger. I didn’t lash out. I didn’t go to school with a gun. I turned it all inward. I shut off my emotions except for anger. I listened to the loudest, most anti-establishment music I could find. I did other things to try to escape. I would’ve been the kid voted most likely to punch someone in the face, but again my anger was turned inward not outward. I hated people in general, but I just stayed away from them. Family members who still didn’t know what happened would tell me I needed to “smile and be happy”.
I ended up getting married two months after I turned 18. I thought I could escape my life that way. It didn’t help. I just had someone to turn my anger towards. It was a rough couple of years until we moved far away from my family and the part of the country where so much of my pain had been rooted. I was 20 years old and 1,500 miles away from my family when I found out I was pregnant. I wanted a new life. I wanted a life different for my child than what I had. I tried so hard to have that new life, but the pain from my past was still there. I tried counseling. I tried church. I tried to put all of my energy into my daughter. I still couldn’t escape it. I didn’t trust anyone. I couldn’t make friends because I didn’t trust them around my husband or my daughter. Inside, I was living through hell. My marriage ended partly because I didn’t know what a healthy relationship looked like.
Fast forward to today. Most people would never imagine me as the person I was for so many years. I tend to be optimistic. I’m outgoing on a professional level, but still an introvert. I care about people. I work to make lives better. I have a wonderful husband who believes in me and supports me in everything I do. We’ve both been through a lot in our lives, but that’s a bond that holds us together.
I’m so thankful that I have him in my life because this past week has been absolute hell for me. Memories that I had dealt with came flooding back. What has hurt the most are the people who I thought I knew saying the most insensitive things about victims. I will be honest, the past two years have been hell. I’ll save the details but it isn’t about politics. It is about human nature. I’ve lost contact with people because I’ve seen who they really are and I don’t care to be part of their hate. I recently realized through a health tracker that I have gained 10 pounds just since 2016. I have done what I tell my clients not to do, feed emotions with food.
This week I started to feel that anger again. I felt myself wanting to withdraw from people. That is hard to do in my job. I reached out on social media with a list of resources for victims. Facebook denied my post boost because they don’t boost “political posts”. I challenged their decision since there was nothing political in my post, but they still denied it. I’m going back and forth between wanting to reach out, and wanting to withdraw. When I read posts from friends and acquaintances, especially the #WhyIDidntReport posts, I can’t withdraw. I know that I am not alone in these feelings. I know there are people out there who have been through even worse than what I went through. These stories haunt me, whether they happened last night or 40 years ago. I know the pain, but I don’t know all of the pain. I know there are others who have gained weight by eating or drinking their emotions away. I know there are those who don’t sleep at night. I know there are people who can’t exercise because it is all they can do to get out of bed in the morning and go to work or take care of their families. I know they are hearing and reading the same insensitive comments. “Why didn’t you tell anyone then?”. “Why were you alone with him?”. “Why did you drink too much?”. “Why did you wear that outfit?”. “Boys will be boys, that is just how it is.”. “That’s in the past. Don’t destroy someone’s life now.”. It is like hearing the word “slut” again, and again, and again.
What I hope those insensitive people understand is that the pain never leaves us. It shapes who we are. It affects our relationships. It affects our trust of people. I feared for my daughter when she was growing up. Now I fear for my two granddaughters. I can say there are positives that came out of my pain and experiences. I will always advocate for those who do not have a voice. I will always be aware of the struggles of others. I will always root for the underdog. I will continue to use my platform to help those who need help. I don’t care if it affects my business or puts a political label on me. I will always speak out for what is right. My business name is ReNu Your Life because we do have the opportunity to change our lives. We may have huge obstacles to overcome, but empowering others to use those obstacles to make ourselves stronger is the key. Don’t let the negative voices win, whether they are inside your head or coming from people around you. Log out of Facebook and Twitter if you need to. Unfollow or “Unfriend” if you have to. You may find out the hard way who your true friends (and even family) really are. Take a break from the news. Find people who will support you and listen, not shut you down with insensitive accusations and victim blaming. Don’t compromise. Our mental health and our physical health is taking a beating. We must stay strong.